Last Updated on 15.2.23 by Danielle Clements
Once a niche for tech and aviation hobbyists, drones are now a popular consumer gadget after a jump in sales in 2016, prompted by cheaper prices and wider availability. You can now find drones, equipped with a camera, on the high street and online for as little as £30.
Last year, drones have been responsible for 3,456 reported incidents, almost triple the reported incidents in 2015, with Greater Manchester being one of the worst offending areas.
As it turns out, neighbour to neighbour disputes is amongst the most common problems caused by drones.
The garden hedge/fence is the physical, legal and symbolic boundary between neighbours, not to be crossed without prior permission or justifiable cause, but when even a cheap ‘off the shelf’ drone has a range of 300m and can record in 1080p with adjustable zoom, there’s only much a physical boundary can do to maintain separation and privacy.
Reports show owners are flying their drones over their neighbour’s house, within their legally owned boundaries, leading to hostile verbal exchanges and even physical threats. Common complaints include people claiming their neighbours are using drones to spy or monitor them or simply doing so ‘just to annoy them’.
When using drones in public or residential areas owners should be cautious. Recording other people without consent is something most drone users have inadvertently done at one point, this is, in fact, a direct violation of the data protection act and the CCTV code of practice, which was recently updated to include the use of unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
Also, if your neighbour no longer feels comfortable on their own property as a result of you regularly flying your drone over or in direct proximity of their home on a regular basis, they are within their right to make a claim against you under the tort of nuisance which may lead to you being served with an injunction.
Currently, there is absolutely nothing stopping anybody from nipping to their local high street and buying a drone, as long as it weighs less than 20KG and isn’t for any commercial reasons you are good to go.
This has prompted the House of Lords EU committee to call for all drones to be registered amid concerns over individuals operating drones with little to no knowledge of aviation rules.
Other incidents have included more overtly illegal (and admittedly creative) uses for the drones. One man was arrested and subsequently jailed for 14 months after he attempted to drop contraband into a prison. Also, thieves have been using drones to scout homes as potential targets, looking for easy access points such as open windows and signs of security systems.
Due to the technology still be relatively new in mainstream society, the rules governing drones are still evolving.
One suggested method to make drone users more accountable for illegal behaviour, is to have drone flights traceable and available through a public database.
However these gadgets are governed in the future, it’s clear they pose a threat in the wrong hands and will continue to joust with data protection and civil aviation authorities until the laws are forced to adapt.
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